Early Stage: “Somebody’s Home”

Early Stage: “Somebody’s Home”

During #Inktober 2017, I stretched out quite a bit, trying new things. I found that many of the skills I’ve been using for my pencil sketches translated surprisingly well to pen and ink. When I first started using drafting pens back in the 1980’s, I was mimicking the amazing engravings of Albrecht Dürer (as best I could!) and trying to get every scratch to line up perfectly. What I discovered this last month was that I’m more expressive when I stay loose. The first gray stage of this forest interior, “Somebody’s Home,” is a good example of what I mean.


Early gray value block-in for “Somebody’s Home.”

In the past, I would have planned all of this out ahead of time, and painstakingly drawn every leaf. While it’s all well and good to do that, I’ve discovered that my style is actually less meticulous now, and I’m having lots of fun letting things direct themselves more.

Note that the tree trunks are mostly denoted by directional curved lines. I find that if work from the bottom of the page to the top, I can use the heel of my hand as resistance, which helps me to make relatively evenly spaced marks, but I don’t try to make them exactly the same curve or distance apart. I don’t even try to make them fit precisely within the faint pencil marks that delineate the trunks. Everything else is about “flow,” how the textures will lead the eye.

The bracken on the forest floor is done in patches. Later on, I use some of the gaps or overlapping marks as inspiration for where sticks and pits might go.

Here’s the final result. (More discussion below the picture.)


“Somebody’s Home” – Pen and Ink – 10.5×7.5″/20.5×18 cm

You can probably pick out some of the new things I’ve added, and some bits I actually “removed.” With ink, everything is additive: there is no undoing a mark, no chance to erase. If it’s going to be removed, it’s got to be morphed into something else or obliterated in shadow!

I have it easy, though. Back in the 1500’s, Dürer was making grooves in metal with a “burin” or “graver.” Every stroke counted. I’ve always been intrigued by this bit of “The Knight, Death and the Devil,” below, in which the master seems to have corrected a mistake. Look at the light “swoosh” shape that mimics the base of the hoof, and the two bright lines that might have been the initial position of the horse’s shank.


Yeah, I think we can let that bit pass for a twig or blade of grass. Amazing.